Conservation Matters April 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

UNT professor works to conserve the Texas quail population

Bobwhite QuailThe northern bobwhite quail is a valuable bird to the Texas ecosystem and an excellent indicator of healthy grasslands, according to University of North Texas Quail Director, Dr. Kelly Reyna.

According to a study conducted by Reyna, Texas quail hunters can spend more than $8,000 per hunter annually—money that some rural Texas economies have come to rely on. However, the northern bobwhite population seems to be in decline, which has drawn the attention of many, Reyna said.

Noticing this decline, Reyna created a program intended to help combat the limiting factors that have begun to cause population decline in the northern bobwhite quail. The program provides ranchers with an analysis of their property and regional trend information, a habitat plan and checkups that ensure proper habitat growth. These ranches create "quail co-ops," or groups of ranches that are committed to doing what is necessary to keep their valuable quail population thriving. Creating larger habitats that become wildlife corridors give quail a greater chance of survival, Reyna said.

Reyna said that a healthy quail habitat should be between 1,000 and 3,000 acres because quail tend to be healthiest in groups of 1,000 to 3,000 birds—ideally each bird inhabits one acre. A change in land use, such as a large property being sold to multiple land owners, causes habitat fragmentation. This fragmentation forces quail into much smaller groups, which endangers their well-being and bio-diversity. Reyna's quail co-ops try to prevent population decline from the inside, creating a greater chance of juvenile survival.

To continue to increase species survival, Reyna gives quail hunters the tools they need to sustain the sport. Reyna said that hunters generally have a connection to nature and if told how to help, they will do what's needed to continue enjoying their sport. He said that this year many hunters self-regulated with many shooting quail with their camera instead of their guns. He is currently affiliated with a group of hunters that is working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to adjust the current season length and bag limit associated with quail hunting to minimize the impact of hunting season on the quail species.

Read the full UNT press release.

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